Chrysalis kids get solar panels to power air-conditioning!

To live in Bellingen Shire is to be constantly surrounded by nature! Chrysalis School itself is nestled in the Thora valley, 20 min from Bellingen and 25 min from Dorrigo. With the pristine waters of the Bellinger River flowing past the school and the Bellinger River National Park stretching up the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range to the north, it would be hard to find a more beautiful environment for children. Yet, it comes with its environmental and physical challenges!                                                     

Recently the Class 5 students were involved with the Youth Leading the World project at Bellingen High School where they tackled the issue of climate change with other students in the Shire. And, with the effects of climate change, the extremes in weather conditions have become more prevalent. Where in previous years the school has been closed for occasional flood days, in more recent years the school determined to close on days when the temperature exceeded 40 degrees for the comfort, safety and wellbeing of students, teachers and other staff.

Class 2 ribbon cutting ceremony with from left to right, Tim Fry (Chrysalis Business Manager), Kersten Schmidt (Enesol Director), Class 2 students with their teacher Lyndal Pitkin, Brett Randall (Solar Powered Homes Director), Kelley McGlashan (Chrysalis Education Manager) and seated Michelle Salden (teacher’s aide).

With the school’s unique setting comes infrastructure challenges, including limited availability of peak demand electricity via the national grid due to its rural location and legacy electrical systems. However, this year the school received substantial funding from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to address the needs of its increasing student numbers and growing demand on the electricity grid. In December, 2018 the Class 2 children excitedly officially cut the ribbon to open the new Smart Control Solar Battery System and asked Kersten Schmidt, from Enesol, and Brett Randall, from Solar Powered Homes, direct and engaging questions such as how solar panels work, what they are made of, and how big the batteries are? The children were particularly grateful for the new air-conditioners that have been installed as a consequence of the solar system upgrade and felt like all their Christmases had come at once with cool classrooms and hopefully no need to close the school for heat days again!

The primary objective of this project is to decrease electrical loads by increasing the amount of locally produced solar energy, introducing battery storage to absorb excess solar energy as well as address increased peak demand and provide a more reliable energy supply during times of blackouts. Overall, the comfort and wellbeing of the school community will be enhanced, expensive network upgrades will be avoided, operational electricity cost for the school will be reduced and the innovative project will have educational benefits for the students and be a showcase of intelligent application of the latest technology for the wider community.

“The initiative provides an opportunity for innovators and early adopters to test and trial new clean energy solutions,” Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin said.

“Government relies on strong partnerships with the private sector as part of our transition to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future.”

It’s a win-win-win situation, for the students, the school, and the environment of course!

Background Information

Innovative Benefits of the Chrysalis/Enesol/DPE project

This project is a novel example of applying renewable energy technology with battery storage and integrating demand and supply side management in a limited grid capacity environment enabled by a smart control system. This all of system approach is an innovative solution in contrast to traditional supply constraint solutions that build network infrastructure, at large costs, to address the problem. The project outcomes will deliver increased comfort, wellbeing, energy security, environmental benefits and cost savings to the school and wider community.

The use of solar systems with battery storage to enable installation of further air conditioning units in a capacity constraint microgrid in a school environment is considered a novel application. The project is being undertaken in a school environment with strong local community engagement and this enhances knowledge sharing and educational outcomes.

Government Department name: Department of Planning and Environment (DPE)
Contact name: Clean Energy Programs team
Contact website:

Background Info on Chrysalis Steiner School

To live in Bellingen is to be constantly surrounded by nature. Fertile farmland and national parks lie in all directions. The school itself is nestled in the Thora valley, 20 min from Bellingen and 25 min from Dorrigo, on a hillside facing the Great Dividing range. With the pristine waters of the Bellinger River flowing past the school and the Bellinger River National Park stretching up the escarpment of the Great Dividing range to the north, it would be hard to find a more beautiful environment for children.

Class 2 students learning all about solar panels, the electricity the produce, the batteries used to store that power and the air-conditioning units using the clean energy to keep their classrooms cool in summer and warm in winter!

The school was established on this remote regional campus in the valley 35 years ago. Through the creative and dedicated building program in their pioneering years, they have a campus that features buildings of exceptional architectural beauty. Each classroom has been designed and built to take into account the outstanding natural environment and to create a nurturing and beautiful learning environment. As climate change has progressed, and extremes in weather conditions have become more prevalent, for the comfort, safety and wellbeing of students and teachers and other staff, the installation of air-conditioning units is not only highly desirable, but also a consideration out of the school’s duty of care.

The campus is located in a regional/remote area with limited access to the electrical distribution system with capacity limitations due to the installed electrical infrastructure (2 phases only on current limited power lines). The location is inland with hot and humid weather during the summer and cold nights and morning during winter.

Contact name: Tim Fry (Business Manager)
Chrysalis School For Rudolf Steiner Education Ltd
Contact phone number: 02 6655 8616
Contact email address: [email protected]
Contact website: